Nathan Fielder: The Man Behind Dumb Starbucks, and the Internet's Smartest Jokes

PHOTO: Comedian Nathan Fielder comes forward as the brainchild of "Dumb Starbucks," a parody store that resembles a Starbucks with the word "Dumb" attached above the Starbucks sign, Feb. 11, 2014.
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Nathan Fielder, the host of Comedy Central's "Nathan For You," revealed on Monday that he was behind a parody coffee shop that opened in Los Feliz, Calif., which drew large crowds.

Fielder, whose program focuses on creating outlandish marketing campaigns for real small businesses, said naming the store Dumb Starbucks, fulfilled "the minimum requirements to be considered a parody under U.S. law." The store, which was legally opened as an art gallery, was soon shuttered by the California Department of Health.

ABC News profiled Fielder following the conclusion of the show's first season. A version of this article originally ran on May 31, 2013.

If today is like most days, somewhere in West Hollywood, Calif., Nathan Fielder, a Canadian comedian on his way to reshaping reality television and testing the limits of what it means to make something go viral on the internet, is taking a walk.

"I walk around the neighborhood a lot. I like side streets. I do a lot of thinking," says Fielder, 29, writer, director and star of Comedy Central's "Nathan for You" and the man responsible for introducing the world to "poo-flavored" frozen yogurt, among other marketing innovations.

The show, which just concluded its first season and was picked up for a second, was conceived by Fielder and co-creator Michael Koman. According to Fielder, the two friends "sat in a room for a lot of hours trying to find a way" to make a show in which the comedian, whose deadpan delivery makes him a natural straight man, interacted with real people.

Despite that history, the show feels like American huckster PT Barnum and Canadian nebbish Rick Moranis were forced to watch episodes of "Undercover Boss" on an endless loop and then pitch a television show.

Fielder has found a niche few people laughing at his jokes likely realized existed before he came along to fill it. He points a high-powered microscope at American consumerism, finding humor in the everyday totems of American commerce – pizza delivery, the clothing boutique, the gas station – the way Andy Warhol found art amid supermarket shelves.

If the concept for the show was born in a room with his co-creator, the ideas for each are born out of those daily walks, past the shops and restaurants that become not just the backdrops, but the writers' room and casting agency for each episode.

Along the way, Fielder has also earned a reputation as a prankster prince of the internet, pulling the wool over the eyes not just of unsuspecting small businesses but the national news media.

Just this week, one of his signature Twitter bits, he doesn't like to call them "pranks," again went viral.

You may never have heard of Fielder or seen his show, but if you're dating someone who this week texted you "I haven't been fully honest with you" and then didn't reply for an hour as you went nuts, sending him or her multiple and increasingly erratic text messages in response, then you're more familiar with Fielder's work than you know.

You also might know him if you've watched that viral video of a baby pig saving a baby goat, or if you emailed that video to a friend. If you broadcast the video during a network television newscast as both ABC and NBC did, well, then the joke's really on you.

In each episode of "Nathan for You," Fielder approaches a real business with an outlandish marketing gimmick. In the first season, he convinced the managers of a froyo shop that selling "poo-flavored" yogurt would result in media attention and ultimately more foot traffic.

It worked.

He talked a filling station owner into selling gas for $1.75 a gallon, half what the competition was charging, but only "after rebate." The rebate came with a hitch. It was redeemable only after a two-hour hike up a mountain, answering a series of riddles and camping out overnight.

People actually did it.

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